Medical Marijuana and My Migraines
I thought I'd give my story of the success and difficulties of using Medical Cannabis for migraines.
I developed migraine with aura in my mid-thirties and I am now in my early 60s. For most of this time I've been having about 3 migraines a week, lasting 6 hours or so each. I went through all the preventatives and abortives with only minimal success and a LOT of side effects.
My migraines don't incapacitate me from pain but from the other symptoms - vertigo, balance, numbness, nausea, visual problems, auditory issues, cognitive changes, etc. Generally I am too incapacitated to even walk. Luckily, I've had a sympathetic employer all these years.
My migraines seem related to the severe cervical stenosis and myelopathy I developed - my spinal cord is squeezed by spinal changes in my neck, resulting in numbness and spasticity on one side of my body.
About 15 years ago a specialist tried low-dose Marinol (a prescription THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) to help my spasticity. It helped somewhat and also reduced my migraine frequency and intensity. Then my state of New Jersey started their medical marijuana program and I became a patient.
Under the program I tried many strains of medical marijuana with varying results.
I discovered I absolutely do not like the effects of cannabis during a migraine - it dulls the pain and often helps with the nausea but seems to increase my dizziness and my overall feeling of incapacitation.
So I only use it as a preventative. I use a desktop vaporizer as I gave up cigarette smoking nearly 30 years ago and don't want to smoke anything again.
I've found that cannabis is a complicated substance and it is very difficult to find the best strains for migraine. Some make me anxious or have other unpleasant effects, others simply don't work for my migraines or spasticity.
The worst part is you can't rely on the strain names, as there are often various "phenotypes" running around - unless a plants genetics is well stabilized, each seed of a plant may produce slightly different effects.
Luckily, the dispensaries in our program all use clones, so the flowers are fairly identical from purchase to purchase.
Both the cannabinoids - the various marijuana-specific compounds like THC and CBD (cannabidiol) - and the terpenes - the flavor/smell compounds that make marijuana sometimes smell like skunk and other strains smell like lemons ro blueberries - seem to make a difference. Our dispensaries are required by law to publish the cannabinoids of their strains and put them on the dispensed cannabis labels, but not the terpene profiles.
I've found a number of strains that really seem to work for me as preventatives, reducing my migraines from 3 bad ones a week to 1 or 2 mild ones.
The marijuana-specific compound that seems to make a difference for me is CBG ( cannabigerol), a non-psychoactive compound. It seems to eliminate any anxiety I might get from the cannabis and really knock out the migraines. Too much CBD, on the other hand, seems to give me non-migraine rebound headaches.
This year I've been using a sativa leaning high-CBG strain that has REALLY been working. As long as I do a light to moderate dose every evening before bed I get NO migraines, not even prodrome symptoms. It seems to have just "turned off" my migraines. I don't know how long this will last but for now I am very happy. The only negative is I HATE having to use any drug every day, makes me feel very dependent on chemistry...
The strain is Super Lemon Haze, but remember about phenotypes. It could be that it is only the phenotype at the dispensary here that is high in CBG and the needed terpenes.
Good luck to anybody else trying medicinal cannabis for migraines. A good reference for checking out information of strains is Leafly.com
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